People who work for us

Meet the team of people who are working day in, day out to make Engage Britain a success.

Alasdair de Costa
Analyst

I’ve worked in analytical roles at major tech companies and more recently in research at a well-known think tank. I’ve always been interested in politics and policy, because I believe they’re the best ways to materially improve all of our lives.

I joined Engage Britain because I care about making sure policies work for people, particularly those they most affect, and those often excluded from conversations about the direction of our country. It’s been fantastic to listen and learn from people all over Britain as they discuss some of the biggest challenges we face.

Alasdair de Costa image
Binita Mehta-Parmar
Head of Partnerships

I’ve spent a decade working in strategic communications, with a background in politics, charity governance and building non-profit start-up teams. Now, I’m leading the development of partnerships, networks and relationships for Engage Britain.

Having represented my community as a local Councillor, I sincerely believe in putting citizens and communities at the centre of compassionate and sustainable policymaking.

The prospect of helping solve the biggest challenges facing us, at a time when we really need solutions that bridge divides, sincerely excites me. I look forward to working with you to build a positive future for our country.

Binita Mehta-Parmar image
John Hall
Strategy consultant

I’ve spent 25 years in the world of public policy and strategy, working in government, regulation, research and consultancy.

In my three years as Strategy Director in the Department of Health, the most important lesson I learnt was how rarely we take the time to bottom out exactly what questions we should be asking.

I currently combine strategy consultancy in the UK and overseas with leading young people on expeditions to developing countries. In different ways, each has taught me how creating meaningful change always starts by understanding the very different lenses through which people look at the world. This is at the heart of Engage Britain’s approach.

John Hall photo
Julian McCrae
Director

I’ve spent 25 years in the world of public policy creation, including five years as Deputy Director of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, where I led the unit’s work on social mobility, welfare policies and economic growth.

Sadly, I’ve seen it fail time and time again on issues from housing to immigration. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that real ideas, important ideas, don’t start in government. They start with real people, in civic society.

I helped to set up Engage Britain because I truly believe that when we gather people from all parts of society ­– and commit to listening and learning from their experiences – we can create ideas that work and make real change.

Julian McCrae photo
Justina Razac
Office Manager

For over 10 years I’ve worked as an administrative and operations professional within the education, charity and corporate sectors.

In that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to gain experience across a variety of roles including recruitment, developing organisational strategies, and supporting senior management.

Throughout my career I’ve seen multiple approaches to running an organisation, and I’m now using this experience to build an organisational infrastructure which gives Engage Britain the capabilities needed to achieve its mission.

I have a passion for inclusivity and diversity, and this is what attracted me to Engage Britain. I am proud to work for an organisation which seeks to involve all, and encourages collaboration.

Justina Razac
Lovisa Möller
Senior Analyst

For many years I’ve worked on research projects for non-profits, journalist and academics. The need for policy to start with those most affected has always been close to my heart.

Before I joined Engage Britain, I led a global research and advocacy project for a human rights charity. We did our best to ensure that the ideas we took forward resonated with the people whose rights were at risk. It showed me the true potential of putting people at the heart of policymaking.

And that’s exactly why I chose to join Engage Britain. Every day I learn new things about how we can bring about conversations that bridge divides and generate new solutions.

Lovisa Möller
Matthew Batchelor
Consultant Project Director

I’ve been managing creative projects in the voluntary and public sector for over 20 years, working with organisations ranging from community-based charities to national policy institutes.

I firmly believe that good design and appropriate use of technology can help bring about positive social change: I’m working with Engage Britain to help the organisation develop its brand identity, website and contact database.

What excites me most about Engage Britain is its mission to reshape how we debate the key challenges facing the country: to be more inclusive, to use technology for good, and to ensure that opinions are shared constructively.

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Miriam Levin
Programme Director (from July)

My working life has been dedicated to involving people in public policy decisions that affect their lives, shaping the places where they live, and taking action on things that matter to them.

Most recently, in Government, I’ve done this through running programmes on deliberative democracy, community organising and place-based social action.

Our country is facing massive challenges, but ordinary people are rarely given the opportunity to be part of the solution. By bringing people together, opening up conversations, and listening, I hope Engage Britain can change that ­– and change policymaking for the better.

Miriam Levin image
Owain Service
Digital Adviser

I spent the first half of my career working on government policy – on child health at the Department for Education, on the reform of public services at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, and developing a national security strategy at the Cabinet Office.

I loved these roles, but worried that we never got to understand the effect of these reforms on real people. I co-founded the Behavioural Insights Team (the ‘Nudge Unit’), to understand why people make the decisions they do and test new ways of encouraging behavioural change.

In my work with the Engage Britain team, we’ve been looking at some of the most innovative technology platforms in the world and putting them to use to inform the wider work of the charity.

Owain Service
Rachel Stein
Director of Engagement and Communications (from July)

Throughout my career, I’ve helped brands connect with their audiences through their communications. Most recently, as Executive Director at Stonewall, I’ve worked alongside different people and communities to build campaigns that improve equality and result in tangible change.

Before that I worked for Metro Bank, leading on communications that helped to turn customers into fans and advocates.

As the world around us changes, so must the way we engage and communicate with the people around us. That’s why I’m excited to be joining the Engage Britain team. I firmly believe that by putting people’s passion, enthusiasm and experience front and centre, it’s possible to tackle some of the biggest issues facing our society. And most importantly, create meaningful change.

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Stephen Armstrong
Writer

I’ve been a journalist for 25 years, writing socio-political features for glossy magazines and arts pieces for heavyweight newspapers. It should have been the other way around but the 90s were an unusual decade.

I’m now writing about arts for the Sunday Times, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs for Wired, scientists and clinicians for the British Medical Journal and ordinary people across the country for two major reporting projects and two minor books. I’ve found that the most interesting people in all these places have something in common – they care about problems and they come up with solutions that take my breath away. If they’re just motivated by exploiting the solutions, on the other hand, they all sound empty.

I’m working with Engage Britain because they too seem more interested in the first group than the second – and imagine what we could do if we all thought that way.

Stephen Armstrong

People who work with us

Meet our trustees and advisory network members who are contributing their knowledge and experience to help us get this right.

Anna Hiley
Advisory network member

I’m the founding GP and CEO of Inclusion Healthcare, a not-for-profit NHS healthcare provider for homeless people, asylum seekers and those in secure environments; vulnerable groups that don’t fit the system’s model.

I grew up in Surrey, took a gap year before medical school and visited a mission hospital in Tanzania, an experience that taught me the futility of parachuting in community saviours.

I trained as a GP and was drawn to working on the edges of society, delivering care in the back room of a homeless night shelter. We overcame the inequality of this meagre offer and have now established a number of high-quality services to meet the needs of excluded populations.

Homeless street medicine taught me that lasting change doesn’t happen when you only respond to crisis. Long-term solutions happen through years of working with people, sticking by them and helping them chose better futures.

Anna Hiley
Clare Wightman
Advisory network member

I’m the CEO of Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire. We work with all sorts of people experiencing isolation and exclusion through disability, poverty or anything else.

There’s no change without a bit of tension but all along the golden rule has been: “Never do for others what they can do for themselves. Help strengthen their voices.”

We believe people and communities should be in charge of improving their lives. Services can’t always be there, but other people can – so we help develop strong relationship networks. If people’s strengths and aspirations are recognised and trusted, they can realise their potential, take opportunities and deal with challenges.

I’m interested in Engage Britain to see how we can take what we’ve learned locally and for it to have some kind of national impact. National change is usually in a top-down space – Engage Britain feels like a bottom-up space.

Clare Wightman
Danny Flynn
Advisory network member

I’m the Chief Executive of YMCA North Staffordshire. Over the last 15 years, I’ve steered the charity from a hostel to a multi-service youth campus helping hundreds of thousands of young people into homes, education and jobs.

I started work as a diesel-fitter in a Stoke garage, went back to college to take A levels then moved to London to work as a community service volunteer at a day centre for homeless people. I’ve worked in the charity sector ever since.

I don’t like thinking of the YMCA’s young people as a ‘homeless problem’. It’s about seeing them as assets to a community – building on what’s strong not what’s wrong. The majority of his kids are in work or studying for degrees. It’s about building relationships, unlocking passion and talent.

Danny Flynn
Jerome Harvey-Agyei
Advisory network member

I’m senior Children and Youth Participation Officer at the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit.

 

As a care leaver myself, I co-founded the Tope Project to help young care leavers struggling with isolation. Named after a close friend and fellow care leaver who killed himself just before Christmas, the project helps support care leavers at the festive season.

I see the care system struggling under difficult pressures and believe there’s too much luck involved in young people finding loving homes and support staff.

I believe young people of every background should have a voice and some control over their own lives. I’m actively involved in the music industry which helps me inspire young people. Creativity is the hook – but empowerment is the message underneath it.

Jerome Harvey
Jess Steele
Advisory network member

I am the founder of Jericho Road Solutions, which provides coaching to neighbourhood groups and community businesses as well as working with government, funders, corporates and academics – with all profits invested locally in Hastings.

I’ve been an active social entrepreneur for 25 years, building ventures in publishing, heritage, tourism, childcare, financial management, neighbourhood development, workspace and affordable homes. Having led the campaign to save Hastings Pier, I’m drawn to heritage buildings and am working on a PhD in ‘Self-Renovating Neighbourhoods as an alternative to gentrification or decline’.

Jess Steele
Jon Clemo
Advisory network member

I’ve been working in the voluntary sector for 16 years, starting out doing practical stuff in communities, helping people and groups devise responses to issues that are important to them, from poverty and employment to access to services.

 

I’ve taken the lessons learned there and applied them to my strategic role – working with health and social care to help services meet the needs of real people, linking activity across different services to help meet the individual’s complete needs from housing and health to food and friendship.

I recognise that grassroots involvement is crucial to success. But I know that the bigger things become, the harder it is to make the relationships work. I’ve experienced taking grassroots insight to the scale, complexity and politics of the local system level. The bit that intrigues me about Engage Britain is how do we make that work on a national level?

Jon Clemo
Katherine Nissen
Advisory network member

I’m the Chief Executive of Cornwall Rural Community Charity (CCRC), which supports and strengthens Cornwall’s communities. The charity has four key areas of focus: skills and training, care, money and community from younger to older members of the community.

 

Born and bred in Cornwall I’ve lived in rural communities for most of my life, working as a teacher, a University lecturer and as an Early Help Locality Team Manager within children and family services for Cornwall Council.

Working with partners, collaborators and local communities, I believe a community’s strengths lie within its people and CRCC has the exceptional staff and knowhow to respond to emerging needs within the diverse communities of Cornwall.

Katherine-Nissen
Lauri McCusker
Advisory network member

I’m the director of the Fermanagh Trust – a community organization founded to support community development and break down tension between communities in Northern Ireland. I grew up in Enniskillen and remember the dark days of the bombs and the shootings.

I studied in Coventry and earned a green card working in California, but came home when the peace process was starting, to try and make a positive contribution to my community including devising a radical Shared Education strategy. Small schools shared specialised teaching if both communities were in the class. The effect on community relationships was dramatic. It’s hard to scream at each other in the street if you’re picking your kids up from the same school gate.

The Northern Ireland Executive learnt from this and introduced the Shared Education Act in 2016. UNICEF Macedonia borrowed the model and now it’s rolling out across the world.

Lauri McCusker
Lord Birt
Trustee

I am a former journalist and have worked in many senior media roles, including as the Director-General of the BBC. I was subsequently a senior adviser at Number 10. I am currently a cross-bencher in the House of Lords.

After a long broadcasting career covering politics, some years helping forge policy and a period scrutinising it, I have concluded that only a process that thoroughly engages everyone – users, practitioners and experts  –  will help us create the robust, considered and acceptable policies that will finally address the long list of Britain’s stubborn and unresolved problems.

Lord Birt
Malcolm Walker
Advisory network member

I was born on a Hartlepool council estate, left school at 16 for the steelworks, but – like thousands – was made redundant in 1979. I started doing voluntary youth work, got involved in my community and realised we could act together to make a difference.

 

I’ve worked, studied and taught community development across the North East ever since – including CEO of a resident-led £54m regeneration programme in Hartlepool. I retired two years ago and now chair a charity involved in community-led housing – building houses for people in need, supporting young care leavers, providing construction training for young people, and bringing empty buildings back into use.

I also support other community projects, like the Belle Vue Centre, a great project started by local residents’ fundraising, and the Hartlepool Action Lab, a collaboration of many local groups tackling poverty in Hartlepool.

Malcolm Walker
Micah Lammie
Advisory network member

I manage the Brixton Soup Kitchen (BSK), serving hot food, offering legal advice and giving out clothing parcels.

After a troubled childhood, I worked in the financial sector. I met Solomon Smith, founder of the Soup Kitchen, at a mutual friend’s wake, quit my job and now volunteer full-time.

Food is the facilitator. We bring the old Brixton and the new Brixton together – the free school meals kids and the private school kids. We organise back to school parties with slush puppies, hot dogs and a bouncy castle. Kids entitled to free school meals get the latest Adidas rucksacks, trainers, and brand new clothing. The stigma is removed because everyone wants to party. BSK’s bonfire night displays fills the streets, the walls, the windows… old and new Brixton together.

Everything starts somewhere. There’s been ups and downs but we’re helping people.

Micah Lammie
Nola Edwards
Advisory network member

I’m chair of the Foxhill Resident Association and I’m a member of the Bath Independent Group, which is trying to take party politics out of local government decision making. It’s long overdue.

 

I moved around a lot as a kid – primary school in Walsall then Zambia, secondary school in Zimbabwe then Wiltshire, and a Graphics and Illustration degree at Newport College of Art.

I’ve worked in education and as a bookbinder, hand sewing books; love gardening and am a proud single mother of my lovely daughter.

I took a leading role in Foxhill Residents Association because my community’s homes were to be demolished and both the Housing Association and the Council believed that we didn’t know what was in our own best interests.

I’m 60 now, and I no longer care if I make a bit of a fool of myself when I’m trying to achieve something that’s important to me. We fought and won with help from across the city – every class, every political view.

Nola Edwards
Paul Johnson
Trustee

I am Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and have previously worked in a variety of analytical roles within government.

I was Chief Economist and Director of Analytical Services at the Department for Education and Skills and later became Director of Public Services and Chief Micro-Economist at the Treasury.

I’m involved with Engage Britain because I recognise that whilst analytics and facts are vital for effective policymaking, a policy is only worthwhile if it addresses a real issue or challenge that the people of this county are dealing with.

Paul Johnson
Robert Visintainer
Advisory network member

I’m project manager at Men’s Sheds Cymru – we support the men’s shed movement in Wales. Men’s Sheds offer a space to men, many of whom have found themselves with time on their hands, especially after retirement or through a change in their life circumstances.

 

I like to think that Men’s Sheds offer a ‘health by stealth’ approach to overcome mental and physical health problems. Men talk shoulder to shoulder not face to face, so they’ll have a more honest conversation if they’re working on something together. It’s how they worked in the mines and factories.

Individual sheds – which could be any building or space – are shaped and owned by their members. I’ve worked in building design and management before this, so I understand the strength of a place where you feel safe. I really believe that community and the voice of community is essential to making a difference. I think the power should be with the community and I hope Engage Britain agrees.

Robert Visintainer
Ruth Hunt
Trustee

Having spent five years as the chief executive of Stonewall, I know the importance of listening to and amplifying the voices of those who have been systematically neglected and using this to bring about real change.

 

I’ve been at the forefront of reforming LGBT+ policy and working with many of our leading employers to improve their practices.

As a crossbencher in the House of Lords and active member of the PCC of St Matthew’s Church in Bethnal Green, I’ve seen the positive difference it makes when multiple voices come together with compassion and understanding. I’m part of Engage Britain because its mission is vital if we’re to build a better future for us all.

Ruth Hunt
Sandip Shah
Trustee

I am a Partner at KPMG, having spent over 30 years at the firm. In this time, I have supported countless businesses across many sectors with their needs including acquisitions, disposals, financing and helped them to structure themselves.

 

I am deeply passionate about representation and equality in all aspects of modern life. As well as Engage Britain, I have been a Trustee of Chance for Childhood, the Ethnic Minority Foundation, the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations and Diversity East London.

I am part of Engage Britain because I believe in its mission and want to use my skills and experience to help make it as effective as it can be.

Sandip Shah
Sharon McAulay
Advisory network member

I’m Project Manager at STAR Project – an award-winning community development organisation in Paisley. We’re a small grass roots charity that packs a big punch!

 

We are truly embedded in our community, ‘a well kent face’, and have often worked with generations of the same families.

Paisley has long-term issues that need long-term solutions, and cultural regeneration is one of the answers. We use creativity as a tool for change, tackling the impact of poverty and deprivation to build better connected and more resilient communities. With extensive experience working in areas of multiple deprivation and expertise around psychological safety and prevention, my interest lies in harnessing the therapeutic value of relationships and celebrating the unique human-ness we each possess.

I’m interested in Engage Britain to find people that are working on the same problems with different solutions, so we can share methods and models of working.

Sharon Mcaulay
Susan Hitch
Trustee and Chair

I’m lucky enough to have several careers. I spent quarter of a century as an academic, then decided to make a change and began establishing and working with a number of think tanks – as well as presenting BBC Radio 3 Night Waves.

Over the years I have held positions on a number of boards including the Sigrid Rausing Trust, China Dialogue and The Royal Literary Fund, and worked with educational charities such as the Institute for Government, Centre for Cities and Policy Network.

I believe we learn best from bringing together a wide range of experiences, and this is what Engage Britain will be doing to help us tackle the biggest challenges we face.

Susan Hitch
Trevor Phillips
Trustee

Currently I am Chair of Green Park Executive Recruitment and co-founder of the data science consultancy Webber Phillips, working with hundreds of private companies, public bodies and charities.

 

I am also a regular columnist for the Times, a Senior Fellow at the Policy Exchange think-tank, and Chair of the freedom of expression charity Index on Censorship.

I spent over two decades as a TV executive and presenter and had a varied career in business and public service including three years as president of the John Lewis Partnership Council. I served for ten years as the Chair of Commission for Racial Equality and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Trevor Phillips
Trevor Rose
Advisory Network member

I run the Community Recording Studios at the edge of the St Ann’s estate in Nottingham. The studio has produced chart-topping stars, Radio One regulars and festival heroes – but its community work has changed lives.

I started out as a breakdancer, touring with Queen Latifah and Money Love before setting up my own operation in a former community centre. Kids kept showing up and soon I was working with drugs awareness projects, teaching video and production skills, encouraging aspirations and keeping the peace when trouble broke out.

We’ve worked with Children in Need, the MOBOs, Fame Academy, The Prince’s Trust and made stars of estate kids from St Ann’s. People come in, they have all sorts of problems, all sorts of ideas, all sorts of things that could go right or wrong. We work with everyone because, whatever their problems, everyone wants to achieve something.

Trevor Rose